Hi all, welcome to the fourth edition of Wellington Brass British Open Tour blog. My name is Tom Baker, former New Zealand Army (Band) Commando and current back row battler for Wellington Brass. (Credit to Kieran Smith for term ‘back row battler’)
Fresh off the back of our pre-tour concert on Sunday, the reality of heading to Birmingham is starting to set in as there is an undeniable air of excitement amongst the band. It is not that long ago that attending the British Open was no more than a crazy daydream. Now the only thing that separates us from Birmingham is one more rehearsal and a long haul flight.
Having joined the band for the first time in 2007, I have seen just how far this band has come. There are so many people that the band owes it’s success to but probably none more so than David Bremner. The band’s resident bad cop/commander-in-chief/universe boss has been the driving force behind the band’s success, only showing signs of how long he has been around when he occasionally reuses jokes from 2007/08. Dave’s undying energy, ambition and passion for brass music has transformed a struggling B grade octet to a world class ensemble in a just a handful of years. Having heard the band in recent contest performances, it is hard to believe that less than a decade ago members of the band were strongly encouraged to listen to the A grade bands competing so that we could hear for ourselves the highest standard of NZ brass bands.
It hasn’t been exactly easy leading up to this trip. With the band determined to represent not only Wellington but all of New Zealand there have been long hours in the bandroom, endless fundraisers and routine checks for bugging. We have even surrendered our beloved phones for a couple of rehearsals! Regular roastings on whoever happened to be Dave’s victim of the week have kept us all in line. Mark Davey has theorised -probably while crying himself to sleep- that Dave only picks on those who he loves the most. In that case it becomes clear that Dave is in an open relationship with the wider Wellington Brass community. To be fair to Dave, every joke is made in good nature and does provide the necessary comic relief to keep the band interested during a long rehearsal. This highlights what I consider one of the best attributes of the band, despite the level of talent within the ranks, no one takes themselves too seriously and every member has the utmost respect for one another.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot with the Army Band and every single one of those trips were fantastic in their own right, but I have never been so excited to travel overseas as I am with this outstanding group of people. After the concert on Sunday, when we were each presented with a special edition Wellington Brass tie, it became clear how special this band is and how much it means to us all.
There are so many people -playing members of the band and our pack of supporters- who deserve a special mention for getting us this far but I would run out time before boarding on Friday if I were to attempt to name them all. However, I have to make an exception for Leighton, my co-anchor of the cornet section. Even after a tough year he is the last person that would want any sympathy or any recognition for all the hard work that he has put in behind the scenes but any recognition he gets is throughly deserved. It is great to have Leighton back in the band and there is no one I would rather be struggling away on third cornet with than him.
Hanging up in our bandroom wall is a view from the stage of Symphony Hall in Birmingham. Wellington Brass is little more than a week from giving the performance of our lives on that very stage. This is going to be an amazing experience for the band and when little Jack Bewley says that he is ‘absolutely fizzing mate’, it is fair to say he speaks on behalf of the entire band.